4th of July Weekend is sheer mayhem in Newport Beach, CA. There are beach cruisers, boaters, kayakers, strollers, sparklers, and stand-up paddle boarders adding to the general riff-raff of the holiday. Sometimes, your only solace is to sit on a sidewalk bench and dive your senses into the chocolate-dipped goodness they call a Balboa Bar.
Balboa Bars begin as blocks of vanilla ice cream that are skewered with a 'tongue depresser' and dunked in molten chocolate - then the magic begins. In that tiny window before the chocolate hardens, the bars are covered in your choice of toppings. Rainbow sprinkles are the standard, but you can also enjoy them with chocolate sprinkles, peanuts, Oreo crumbles, or... everything together.
Not all is quiet; however, on Balboa Island. Right there on Marina Avenue lies dormant a feud as captivating as the Hatfields and the McCoys; not nearly as dangerous, but one that's lasted nearly 50 years. Dad's Donut & Bakery Shop rests at 318 Marina Avenue. Just two doors down at 310 and separated only by a clothing store and [Lord have mercy] a Catholic church - is Sugar 'N Spice.
Dad's reportedly started in 1960 and claims "Dad's Original Frozen Banana." For their Balboa Bar, besides the sprinkles, cookie, and peanuts, they mix things up by offering "butter brickle" topping, what looks like a graham cracker-ish mixture. Dad's will be the first giant painted banana you see when you get on the island if you drive... so they have that going for them. They also sell, you guessed it, doughnuts.
"Since 1945" Sugar 'N Spice claims "The Original Frozen Banana," a bold claim by anyone's standards. They do things a little differently then Dad's by hawking their wares through a walk-up window. You can't go inside. They have their unique twist on the Balboa Bar and offer a smashed-up Heath Bar topping. They also serve hot dogs and soft pretzels.
Both of their Balboa Bars are about the same size (gigantic) and are the same price as each other. I would not be able to finish one on my own. Their chocolate coatings are thin and don't overpower the ice cream. The toppings are slathered on. They are also served with a little paper tray so that you don't drop anything on the pavement when you bite into them; likely so as not to upset the nose miners...
I couldn't tell any significant differences between the two so for what it's worth, Yelp reviewers give Dad's a slight edge, 4 stars to 3.5. Is the market for Balboa Bars on Balboa Island saturated? Maybe. Are the citizens complacent with only two options? It's a possibility. Has the city put a hold on all new Balboa Bar licences? I don't know for sure.
Does the world need more ice cream shops that make Balboa Bars? Definitely.